Think positively for Ohio’s farmers

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

I have a request this week for all to say a prayer for farmers still struggling to get crops planted.

We are so blessed in Clinton County. Our farmers have been able to get most of our crops planted as of this week.

During the wettest yearlong period in Ohio since 1895, the state is lagging the furthest behind in planting corn and soybeans compared to all states that plant the crops, according to experts from The Ohio State University and federal reports.

Farmers in other parts of Ohio are less fortunate. My home area of the state (Northwest Ohio) has some counties that just can’t catch a break and may see 70 percent or more of their typical corn acres left unplanted for the year, and they are now running out of time to get soybean acres planted if weather patterns don’t change real soon.

From June 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019, average rainfall across Ohio totaled 52 inches, which is about 10 inches above the mean for that period in the last decade according to Aaron Wilson, climate specialist for Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

As a result of all this wet weather, only 50% of Ohio’s corn crop and 32% of its soybean crop was planted by June 9 according to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By now, Ohio typically is 96% done with planting corn and 89% done with soybeans.

Farmers right now are facing a lot of physical stress over the delayed planting this year as well some are facing financial and mental stress. The weather predictions don’t help as some models are calling for more rain this next week.

Growers who have been able to plant a corn or soybean crop likely will have to contend with other challenges that come with a lot of rainfall: more weeds, pests, and diseases.

With that said, the persistent rains during May and early June have resulted in ponding and saturated soils in many Ohio corn fields that are planted and have led to questions concerning what impact these conditions will have on corn performance.

The extent to which ponding injures corn is determined by several factors including: (1) plant stage of development when ponding occurs; (2) duration of ponding; and, (3) air/soil temperatures. Corn is affected most by flooding at the early stages of growth.

According to OSU corn specialist Peter Thomison, under conditions like saturated soils can result in yield losses. These conditions can result in losses of nitrogen through denitrification and leaching.

Additionally, root uptake of nutrients may be seriously reduced even if plants are not killed outright by the oxygen deficiency and the carbon dioxide toxicity that result from saturated soil conditions. Root growth and plant respiration slow down while root permeability to water and nutrient uptake decreases. Impaired nutrient uptake may result in deficiencies of nitrogen and other nutrients during the grain filling stage.

Once the corn has reached the late vegetative stages, saturated soil conditions will usually not cause significant damage. Moreover, moderate temperatures should help minimize the level of stress.

Thomison notes that in 2017 and 2018 growing seasons, a 10% yield loss was observed when corn was flooded at V4 for 2 to 4 days and received 120 lbs N pre-plant and 60 lbs N sidedress (Applied post-flood). He added that yield losses increased to 15% and 33%, respectfully in those years when fields were flooded for 4 or 6 days with the same N regime.

If no sidedress application of N was made then yield losses could be even greater. In the past when June is wet, a common question is whether or not the crop might run out of nitrogen, leaving the crop short.

While the need for 20 or more lb of N per week would seem to raise the possibility of a shortage, the production of plant-available N from soil organic matter through the process of mineralization is also at its maximum rate in mid-season.

For a crop with a good root system growing in a soil with 3 percent organic matter, mineralization at mid-season likely provides at least half the N needed by the crop on a daily basis. This means that normal amounts of fertilizer N, even if there has been some loss, should be adequate to supply the crop.

Thomison adds that disease problems become a greater risk like Pythium, corn smut, and crazy top when ponding and cool temperatures occur. The fungus that causes crazy top depends on saturated soil conditions to infect corn seedlings.

There is limited hybrid resistance to these diseases and predicting damage from corn smut and crazy top is difficult until later in the growing season.

However, the economic impact of these latter two diseases is usually negligible.

So as you can see, yes we have crops planted in Clinton County, but we still need favorable growing conditions to get us to a bountiful harvest.

Think positive thoughts and help the farming community get through this stressful time.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension